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Best Maldives Liveaboard Reviews [2023 EDITION]

If you wanna find the best Maldives liveaboard there’s a few points to consider such as your budget, how much time you have and how experienced you are as a diver.

Maldives liveaboards vary a lot in terms of the kinds of diving itineraries they offer as well cabins sizes and other onboard amenities. 

Some are truly luxurious; with spas, jacuzzis and private-balcony cabins as well as additional water-sports activities – others are smaller, simpler and more budget-friendly. 

Most liveaboard trips in the Maldives last around a week but some can go on for two!

Generally speaking, the Maldives is recommended for divers with a decent level of experience (advanced open water with 50+ dives), however there are a few liveaboards that can also accommodate beginners. 

The Maldives is divided into five regions: central which is the most popular and famous, north and south; which are less often visited and far north and deep south which are the least-explored areas. 

To help you along, we’ve summarised the very best Maldives liveaboards available in 2023. 

We’ve also included vital info on the countries diving regions, diving season and what you can expect when diving the Maldives – as well as how to book and what to pack!

At Diving Squad, we’re proud to include firsthand reviews of Maldives liveaboards we’ve been on ourselves, with original movies and photos we created to show you what it was like. Let’s dive in!

CONTENT: (Click to dive down to)

Soleil 2 Maldives liveaboard against blue ocean background.
Front of Maldives Liveaboard as it heads towards island with sunset behind it.
Huge Manta Ray swims over coral reef.
Scuba diver surrounded by Stingrays and fish in the Maldives.

Maldives Liveaboards REVIEWS:

#1 SOLEIL 2 - Our Top Pick!

“Soleil 2 is, in my opinion, the absolute best Maldives liveaboard in terms of value for money, onboard amenities and service. 

Despite having a truly luxurious feel with massive cabins (some featuring private balconies), a gorgeous indoor saloon rammed full of giant shark teddies plus an awesome outdoor lounge and partially shaded sundeck with hammocks, beanbags and a hot tub; Soleil 2 is actually one of the cheapest liveaboards in the Maldives! 

This is largely due to the fact that the owner: Shad, runs this liveaboard as a passion project – something that is extremely obvious. Shad is almost always present on the liveaboard himself to guide dives and he and his crew are an extremely knowledgeable, friendly (as well as funny!) and incredibly hard working bunch! 

The dive itineraries are thoughtfully planned out and incredibly varied – we saw manta rays at feeding stations (as well as on manta night dives), were engulfed in swarms of stingrays and nurse sharks, witnessed hundreds of grey reef sharks and endless fish and critters whilst diving a varied underwater landscape of coral-adorned  pinnacles, canyons and shipwrecks. 

Soleil 2 was without a doubt, one of the most quirky, fun and cool liveaboards I’ve ever been on – I’ll be back”!

#2 Iruvai

“Iruvai is unique in that unlike other Maldives liveaboards, she has a local hardwood interior which makes her extremely homely and cozy; even more so thanks to the many lush plants potted everywhere. 

With ten cabins (including a master option with it’s own bathtub), a spacious lounge, bar, sun terrace and dining zones, she is a roomy and comfortable vessel to be on; twenty maximum guests is a smaller group size than most other Maldives liveaboard and during my trip it really felt like a tightly nit and intimate group which was super nice. 

The dive itinerary was extremely varied; we saw mantas, countless nurse and guitar sharks on night dives, huge schools of reef fish and brightly coloured coral reefs as well as turtles, grey reef sharks and more”! 

Laura Delaurii

Laura Delaurii

Marine biologist, scubaholic and esteemed Diving Squad scout

#3 ScubaSpa Yang

Scubaspa Yang.

One of the most popular Maldivian liveaboards of all time, Scubaspa Yang is the only one that is also classed as a five start PADi resort. Onboard, guests will find a spa, gym, yoga zone, jacuzzi and luxury bar as well as massive cabins with beautiful internal lighting. 

The dive itineraries are extremely well laid out with heaps of variety and all of the iconic species for which the Maldives are known; primarily around the central and southern regions. As well as this there are also many extra activites including kayaking, starlit bbq’s, movie nights and daily yoga classes. 

Amazingly, despite the incredibly luxurious feel of ScubaSpa Yang she is really only mid-priced by Maldives liveaboard standards; needless to say this means this liveaboard offers superb value for money. 

#4 Maldives Aggressor II

Maldives Aggressor II.

The Maldives Aggressor II is a grand and luxurious liveaboard with awesome cabins featuring ocean views and private TV’s, a massive outdoor sundeck and a partially shaded lounge with a hot tub as well as an incredibly high-brow indoor saloon where you’ll receive 5 star service in which all drinks are included in the main fee. 

The diving routes are extremely popular and varied; Maldives Aggressor II is one of the few liveaboards that regularly operates in all of the country’s major diving regions with central routes, southern safaris and north-bound voyages. 

The crew and staff are extremely experienced and reliable and they approach their work with a professional yet fun-loving attitude which is regularly noted in reviews.

Taking a maximum of 22 guests means that group sizes are a little smaller compared to most other liveaboards which is another bonus. The Aggressor fleet are well-known around the world for providing luxury-end liveaboards that receive critical-acclaim and the Maldives Aggressor II is no exception to this rule. 

#5 Adora

Adora at sea with scout boat in tow.

Adora truly stands out from other Maldives liveaboards with her range of unique trips. Some itineraries last for 10 nights and start in the central region before working all the way down to the deep southern atolls. Sometimes it is even possible to stay on an island for one or two nights during these longer trips – this is something few other liveaboards offer! 

Taking just 22 guests, Adora is a beautiful liveaboard to stay on with spacious cabins that include private balcony options and with gorgeous hardwood interiors as well as an outdoor sun lounge, indoor saloon and delicious cuisine from the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka.

As well as the longer 10 night trips, 7 night trips are also available. Dive safaris are led by the highly experienced local dive guides and 

#6 Amba

Amba yacht cruising along the sea.

Amba is among the all-time cheapest Maldives liveaboards but despite this, still has excellent cabins with private terrace options, a spacious lounge and sundeck, stand-up paddle-boards and plenty of delicious food onboard!

Most importantly, the diving safaris are incredibly well planned out featuring tons of variety with plenty of chances to see the most iconic species of the Maldives including manta rays, turtles, fish, macro critters and many species of shark including regular sightings of whale sharks. 

Furthermore, Amba is one of the few liveaboards that sometimes ventures all the way up to the far north region of the Maldives, the countries most off-the-beaten track region!

#7 Blue Voyager

Blue Voyager Liveaboard at Sea.

Blue Voyager is a more budget friendly liveaboard that offers a huge variety of different itineraries. In addition to classic routes around the central Maldives as well as trips that visit the more off the beaten track southern and north regions, Blue Voyager also operates special “Project Shark: Far South” and “Manta Trust Expedition” itineraries at certain months!

Among the large variety of trips to choose from (more than most other liveaboards), itinerary length ranges from 7 nights which is the standard length for a liveaboard trip to 10 nights for those who want to prolong their holiday.

Although slightly smaller than other liveaboards, Blue Voyager still offers decent common areas including an indoor lounge and dining room as well as a partially shaded terrace with hot tub and sun loungers. Cabins are cozy with some ocean view options. 

#8 Emperor Serenity

Emperor Serenity.

It’s usually recommended that you have a decent level of experience before going on a Maldives liveaboard (advanced open water cert and 50 logged dives minimum), due to the fact that many of the countries dive sites can experience strong currents. 

That said, it is possible for plucky beginners to venture into some of the tamer Maldivian dive sites, namely around the central region – but you’ll need a liveaboard that accepts beginners and isn’t tailored to more experienced divers. 

For such a feat, look no further than Emperor Serenity; which allows guests onboard with only their open water cert and no minimum logged dives; all itineraries focus around the easier dive sites of the central atolls. 

If you hire a private dive guide for an additional fee, it’s also possible to complete scuba certification courses throughout the trip! This is a smaller liveaboard and so not as expensive as many other options. 

That said, there’s still an extremely good sized sundeck as well as a smallish partially shaded lounge and a very tastefully done indoor lounge, bar and dining area. Plus there is an onboard spa where you can pay for massages! Most cabins are fairly basic in their internal decor with porthole windows but there are some surprisingly spacious options. 

#9 Emperor Explorer

Emperor Explorer at sea.

A newer and somewhat fancier addition to the mighty Emperor fleet, the Emperor Explorer is an extremely classy and spacious yacht that was only constructed in 2019.

There is an onboard spa with a next-level masseuse, a partially shaded sundeck with jacuzzi, a large sundeck and spacious indoor saloon and dining area where guests are treated to a complimentary glass of wine with every dinner! 

All cabins feature plenty of space and ensuite bathrooms with ocean view options also being available. Emperor Explorer mainly explorers the central region of the Maldives with trips lasting from 7 – 10 nights although on certain months there are also special “Deep South & Southern Sharks” trips that last for 14 nights!

#10 Conte Max

Conte Max.

Conte Max is a highly popular liveaboard that’s unique for being the only one to feature it’s very own wellbeing centre with an Ayurveda specialist to guide guests through yoga, meditation and deep relaxation. 

The entire crew go above and beyond to create an incredibly laid back and tranquil vibe whilst the dive guides maintain professionalism to the highest degree and are incredibly knowledgeable of the local marine ecosystem.

The yacht itself is beautifully laid out  with 8 cabins featuring a hardwood interior and which take a maximum of just 20 guests for a smaller group size than most other liveaboards. 

There is a partially shaded lounge as well as a sundeck and outdoor with beanbags, sundecks and hammocks interspersed throughout. In addition to the indoor lounge and bar area, outdoor dining is also available so you can have your dinner beneath the stars. 

Trips typically last 7 nights and usually explore either the famous central region of the Maldives or the more off-the-beaten-track south and deep south zones.  

#11 Carpe Novo

Carpe Novo.

Carpe Novo (aka Hornbeam Novo) is a great option for experienced divers as guests are required to have their advanced open water certification and for some trips at least 100 logged dives on top of this. 

Most routes extensively cover the famous central region of the Maldives although also sometimes feature the more rarely visited southern region and range in length from 7 to 11 nights long. 

You’ll get to experience the very best that the Maldives has to offer with frequent sightings of whale sharks, manta rays, various other species of sharks (including grey reef, nurse, tiger and whitetip reef), turtles, dolphins, fish and all manner of macro critters. 

There are a range of cabin options including two single suites for solo travellers and huge ocean views as well as gorgeous wooden interiors. A very large, partially shaded terrace offers outdoor dining and there is also a spacious sundeck for working on your tan! Furthermore, there’s also an interior living room and stylish bar zone. 

#12 Nautilus Two

Nautilus Two.

Cheaper than most other options, Nautilus Two is a unique and beautiful liveaboard with a stunning incorporation of local hardwood into the exterior and interior. At 43 meters long, it is also a little longer than most other liveaboards

Despite being so affordable, Nautilus Two  still boasts a hot tub, massage showers, kayaks and spacious cabins with beautiful wooden interiors as well as delicious food! 

Most routes explore the southern atolls which boat epic drift dives and even more shark action as well as being less frequently visited by tourists than the more famous central region. Trip length varies from 7 – 10 nights. 

Guests are required to have their advanced open water certification and at least 40 logged dives, making this a good option for experienced divers who don’t want to get stuck with any newbies in their group!

#13 Emperor Virgo

Emperor Virgo.

Emperor Virgo is another affordable, beginner-friendly (ish) liveaboard that specialises in exploring the Maldives famous central region.

You are only required to have your open water certification without any minimum logged dives and can pay extra for your own private dive guide or to complete diving courses. 

In between diving with manta rays, sharks, turtles and scores of fish, you can look forward to yoga classes, kayaking and not one but two bars!

There is a modestly-sized, partially-shaded sun terrace with loungers and main bar zone as well as an indoor saloon and dining area with a second bar and indoor living room. Cabins are cozy sized and there are also ocean view options available. 

#14 Fascination

Fascination liveaboard.

Fascination is smaller than other liveaboards and the absolute best option if you’re seeking a more intimate, personalised experience as there are just two cabins taking a maximum of six guests. It’s also possible to privately charter this liveaboard. 

Routes typically explore the famous central region of the Maldives where it’s easy to see manta rays, numerous shark species including whale, grey tip reef, whitetip reef, nurse and tiger sharks, dolphins, turtles and all manner of fish and other marine creatures. 

There’s also the option to partake in various other water-sports including water skiing, surfing and wakeboarding whilst also enjoying island visits and beach bbq’s. 

#15 Duke of York

Duke of York.

Duke of York is a sleek and modern, mid-priced livaboard with three huge, partially-shaded sundecks, an indoor lounge / bar / dining zone with TV entertainment system and an onboard spa where guests can enjoy massage services. 

There are a total of 10 cabins; all of which feature ensuite shower rooms and beautiful wooden interiors with some cabins also offering huge ocean views. 

Most trips explore the famous central region of the Maldives although on certain months of the year it’s also possible to venture down to the mysterious southern atolls where few divers go and strong drift dives await. 

All itineraries cover a range of dive sites including manta ray cleaning stations, plenty of shark action, colourful coral reefs, night dives and sometimes even the occasional shipwreck. 

QUICK COMPARISON: Best Maldives Liveaboards

Find Out More: Liveaboard: Defining Traits: Routes:
Click HereSoleil 2OUR TOP PICK, Incredible staff, quirky, awesome itinerary, one of cheapest options. Central / South / Deep South
Click HereIruvaiSmaller groups, great routes, friendly, affordable, wooden interior. Central
Click HereScubaspa YangScubapsa Yang liveaboard.Gym, Yoga, Spa, Jacuzzi, Kayaks.Central / Deep South
Click HereMaldives Aggressor IIDeep South, Off Beaten Track, JacuzziCentral / South / Deep South
Click HereAdoraAdora at sea with scout boat in tow.Private Balconies, Luxury Cabins, Private Island StayCentral / South / Deep South / North / Far North
Click HereAmbaAmba yacht cruising along the sea.Cheapest, Stand-Up PaddleBoards, Pvt. TerracesCentral / North / Far North
Click HereBlue VoyagerBlue Voyager Liveaboard at Sea.Off the Beaten Track, Long Trips, Value for MoneyCentral / South / Deep South / North / Far North
Click HereEmperor SerenityBeginner Friendly, Dive Courses, SpaCentral
Click HereEmperor ExplorerEmperor Explorer at sea.Spa, Huge Vessel, Beach BBQCentral / South / Deep South
Click HereConte MaxAyurveda, Yoga, Meditation, Spa.Central / South / Deep South / North / Far North
Click HereCarpe NovoCarpe Novo at SeaExperienced Divers, Off Beaten Track, Exciting RoutesCentral / South / Deep South / North / Far North
Click HereNautilus TwoNautlius Two liveaboard at sea.Jacuzzi, Kayaks, Massage ShowersCentral / South / Deep South
Click HereEmperor VirgoBeginner Friendly, Yoga, KayaksCentral
Click HereFascinationSmall Groups, Water-Sports, Intimate SettingCentral
Click HereDuke of YorkBeginner Friendly, Dive Courses, SpaCentral / Deep South

What to Expect on a Maldives Liveaboard Trip

In this section I’ll tell you everything that occurs when you go on the incredible experience of a Maldives liveaboard. 

We’ll start from the very beginning by covering how to book your chosen liveaboard!

Then we’ll go through the process of getting to the Maldives and boarding said liveaboard!!

After that comes the fun part!!! I’ll tell you what to expect whilst living aboard a boat specialised for divers in the Maldives. (Spoiler: it’s awesome). 

We’ll discuss your daily routine  from the moment you wake up up to the moment your head hits the pillow; covering briefings, eatings, sleeping and the dives you’ll go on plus what you’ll see.

I’ve also included a list of helpful tips that I wish I’d had when I went on my first ever liveaboard! 

Finally you can read about different regions  explored by liveaboards through the the Maldives as well as how diving conditions change throughout the changing seasons. 

The information I’m giving you comes from my own experience aboard Soleil 2 as well as Laura’s time aboard Iruvai.

However, even if you’re not considering these two liveaboards, most of the info you’re about to read can be broadly applied to any Maldives liveaboard. Let’s do this:

Two divers (Alex and Tsvetelina) standing on a Donny in wetsuits giving the diver OK sign.
Soleil 2 liveaboard from behind.

Alternatively, click here for a more generalised article about diving the Maldives (covers species, geography, regions etc and is not specific for liveaboard users). 

Guests with baggage boarding liveaboard.
Liveaboard owner giving a dive briefing with whiteboard and projector screen.
Scuba diver (Stanislava) standing in wetsuit on dive donny in the Maldives giving ok sign.
Scuba diver surrounded by Stingrays and fish in the Maldives.

Booking a Maldives liveaboard

There’s something I want to tell you. You saw those big green buttons under each of the liveaboard reviews further up this page?  

The one’s that say “CHECK AVAILABILITY” and which go blue when hovering the mouse over. 

I’m talking about these little dudes:

When you click one of these it takes you to the schedule and booking page for that individual liveaboard on is a huge collection of liveaboards in countries all over the world, including the Maldives.

You can use it to check the availability of and reserve spaces on hundreds of different liveaboards.  

Hovering over the green “RESERVE NOW” button in the right hand corner – or imply scrolling down, shows guest spaces for all upcoming trips for that liveaboard.

When you find the perfect date and trip for you, clicking the green button “SELECT” shows you different cabin options – for a small extra cost you can choose an extra fancy cabin. 

Some of the more expensive cabins have really cool features like private balconies. There’s a short description for each cabin type under the cabin selection page.

Finally select the green button “CONTINUE TO STEP 2” and fill out your personal details to reserve that liveaboard. 

Now, when you do all this after clicking through one of those green links on Diving Squad, we get a small affiliate commission at no extra cost to yourself. Thankyou!!

Screenshot of Liveaboard booking page.
Screenshot of liveaboard booking page phase 2.
Screenshot of liveaboard booking page phase 3.

This doesn’t change your experience of booking a liveaboard at all; you’re almost guaranteed to book any liveaboard on as it’s the world’s most popular online liveaboard booking service with tons of variety and awesome deals. And it doesn’t cost a cent extra.

But it helps us a butt-ton by providing tasty funds which we can throw at keeping this site fresh and sexy whilst continuing to delve out into the world to gather new Diving Squad content. Gracias!!

Head’s up: it’s not uncommon for liveaboard trips to fill out months in advance!! So plan ahead. That said, there are over 50 different liveaboards in the Maldives so you can usually find an option even at the last minute. However, having the freedom to choose among a wide selection requires booking in advance. 


How to get to the Maldives

Plane flying over maldives.

The main international airport of the Maldives is Velana, which is located on Male in the central region. Normally Velana is where you will fly into. Staff from your Maldives liveaboard will greet you at the airport to escort you to your ferry. 

If you’re going on a liveaboard that explores the far north or deep south regions of the Maldives, you may catch a short domestic flight from Velana to one of the northern or southern region airports – this doesn’t happen often but if it does for your trip, your liveaboard will explain everything. 

The Maldives requires that international visitors have a passport that is valid for six months from their expected departure date as well as proof of sufficient funds and an outward travel plan. 

Border staff can be a little picky at Velana; it’s the only airport my passport was ever scrutinised for having a minor tear (fortunately they didn’t see the paper-cut induced blood stains that were on several of other pages!).  You will automatically be granted a 30 day visa on arrival which can be extended to 90 days if requested. 

Daily Routine

After you’ve boarded your liveaboard, organised your dive gear and been shown to your cabin to unpack the rest of your stuff, there’s an orientation briefing.

In this, everything from the liveaboard layout to health & safety is explained and diving groups are assigned (they try to group similarly experienced divers together). 

The first one or two dives of the trip are always around an especially easy dive site. This is where you’ll work through any issues e.g. making sure your gear is functioning properly.

After this first day, which is very much about getting orientated, your daily routine looks like this:

  • Wake-up call at around 7am. About twenty minutes to grab a coffee and snack. 
  • First dive briefing and dive of the day. Followed by breakfast.
  • About 90 minutes break. Good time to sneak in a nap!
  • Second dive. Lunch. 
  • About one and a half to two hours break. 
  • Third dive. Dinner. 
  • Extra activity – can be night dive, beach bbq, fishing etc. 

Although some of the largest Maldives liveaboards have a dive deck on the main boat, most are accompanied by a dhoni.

The dhoni is a smaller boat – kinda like a skiff. Your dive gear is kept here in an allocated box next to the rest of your groups. 

It’s usually a ten to fifteen minute ride to a dive site in the dhoni and during this time you’ll pass many of the tiny Maldivian islets and islands. 

There’s plenty of time to prepare for the dive… whatever that looks like to you. After that it’s time to dive:

Liveaboard owner giving a dive briefing with whiteboard and projector screen.
Scuba tanks and bcd's on Donny with Maldivian island in background.
Scuba divers on liveaboard donny in the Maldives using Alex's sunglasses as a mirror.

There’s a truly insane variety of marine life in the Maldives.

Without a doubt, the stars of the show are the big marine animals: we’re talking manta rays, stingrays, sharks, turtles, dolphins…

Some of these species – such as manta rays, grey reef sharks, nurse sharks, turtles and stingrays; you’re almost guaranteed to see throughout the trip, often on multiple occasions. 

Others – like whale sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads and dolphins, you have a good chance of seeing at least some of, but they’re not so common. 

There’s also an insane abundance of fish – from reef species to vast schools of pelagics encountered in open water. 

Certain dive sites host some very nice coral; complete with a wide assortment of macro critters like nudibranch, mantis shrimp and pipefish.   

Certain dives follow certain themes – sometimes you’ll visit manta cleaning stations, others you go on adrenaline soaked drift dives…and on some you get to be part of a feeding frenzy.

This is where staff lay down fish heads to attract massive swarms of stingrays and fish, especially schooling bannerfish, unicorn fish and small blue triggerfish!

 ther visitors can turn up also; like guitar sharks, nurse sharks and even tiger sharks!

It’s a truly mind blowing experience, rammed full of underwater sensory overload and one that occurred twice during my Maldives liveaboard trip; on the first and last days:

Female scuba diver (Tsvetelina) in the Maldives watching huge school of fish over shipwreck.
Female scuba diver (Stanislava) resting next to group of stingrays in the Maldives during feeding frenzy.

Regardless of what type of dive your’e going on, all dives usually last around fifty minutes or until someone in the group is low on air.

You usually all ascend to the surface together but it’s a good idea to have a surface marker buoy and know how to use it in case you have to surface alone.

It’s rarely a long wait before the dhoni comes to pick you up. Once everyone has been collected, it’s time to head back to the liveaboard where a meal awaits. 

Before you go to eat, I strongly recommend you use the showers at the back of the dhoni or your cabin to rinse out your ears to avoid aches and pains as the week progresses. 

After that, go eat! Breakfast is eggs, pancakes, toast, spam and fruit. 

Lunch and dinner are Maldivian and Indian inspired so expect plenty of fish, chicken, rice, steamed vegetables and curry-like-dishes. 

If you have any special dietary requirements, you’ll have already communicated these with your liveaboard before the start of the trip so they can accommodate you. 

After each meal, you usually have one and a half to two hours before the next dive briefing. This is a great time to charge camera equipment, rest and soak in the views. 

There’s plenty of spaces you can chill around the liveaboard -most liveaboards feature a sundeck as well as a partially shaded lounge with hammocks, beanbags and sundecks. 

There will also be an indoor saloon where you can relax inside and of course you’re free to head back to your cabin where a freshly made bed awaits after the first dive.

Exact duration time between dives varies depending on where the next dive site is. 

Sometimes there’s a long enough wait for extra activities. On cheaper liveaboards this can mean snorkeling or kayaking. This can be done for free.

On more expensive liveaboards you may be able to participate in watersports like flyboarding or jet skiing – or get a massage if there’s an onboard spa! This costs extra.

Now let’s check out the movie below to see an extended cut of one of the stars of the Maldives:

Scuba divers climbing aboard dive donny in the Maldives.
Kitchen staff serving food aboard Maldives liveaboard.
Partially shaded lounge of a Maldives liveaboard against blue sky background.

It’s hard to do justice to just how mesmerising these incredible animals are to witness in real life.

You’re practically guaranteed to see manta rays at some point during your liveaboard trip in the Maldives.

Typically they’re highest in number between May to November, but you can definitely spot them all year round!

During my Maldives liveaboard trip in December, I saw lone manta rays on four separate dives, two together on a night dive and best of all, the four playful individuals in the video above when we visited a manta cleaning station. 

These highly social and intelligent beings are as gentle as they are graceful; lacking a sting they’re no threat to divers and love to perform acrobatic movements in front of people; seemingly as if deliberately putting on a show. 

The Maldives is one of the best places in the world to see them.

Another incredible animal encounter you’re extremely likely to have on a Maldives liveaboard trip is with grey reef sharks.

Measuring six to eight foot long, this requiem shark species is often encountered in small groups on many dives; I saw them in twos and threes on countless occasions. 

However, on a couple of dives I witnessed something I’d never seen before – literally hundreds of grey reef sharks schooling together. It was a truly epic sight to behold. 

Due to the fact that they don’t fight eachother, grey reef sharks have been able to dominate other shark species and as such are a highly successful species right up to the present. 

For this, we visited special dive sites where grey reef shark schooling was known to occur. 

Check out the video below to get an idea what it’s like:

Laura diving the Maldives with manta ray behind her.
Two manta rays from side profile in the Maldives during a liveaboard trip.
Scuba diver (gerry) photographing two grey reef sharks during Maldives liveaboard trip.

On some days, after three dives before breakfast, lunch and dinner, there are also night dives. 

You’ll probably be pretty beat by this point but I highly recommend making it out to these.

Night dives are only carried out when staff are sure you have a good chance of seeing something good. 

On our first night dive we saw feeding manta rays; which drifted through the dark water’s like cruising ghosts, often coming within less than a foot of divers. 

For the second night dive, we saw countless dozens of nurse sharks; which swarmed around us much like the stingrays had during the feeding frenzy. 

This was as other worldly as it was magical and it was an incredible experience unlike any other I’ve had before on a dive. 

Like manta rays, nurse sharks are harmless to divers with tiny mouths and incredibly laid back attitudes. 

Check out the movie below to see video from the two night dives combined: 

Manta Ray during a night dive in the Maldives.
Nurse Shark during a night dive in the Maldives.

On evenings where there’s no night diving, you can kick back with a drink around the sundeck and partially shaded lounge where there’s board games and speakers. 

There is a beach bbq one night, usually half way into the week. You’ll catch a ride to a nearby island where you can wander around whilst the sun sets and staff prepare food. 

Then comes the bbq itself followed by traditional drumming and dancing from the staff which you’re invited to join (they make it look easy, but it’s a pretty decent cardio workout!). 

Evening activities vary between liveaboards but can also include fishing, movie and games nights.

One of my favourite things to do in the evening, was sit at the back of the liveaboard and watch dolphins hunting fish – which were in turn hunting plankton that had been attracted by the boat’s lights. I even went snorkelling with them!

There’s no official bedtime – you can stay up as late as you want but you should be quiet after 10pm and bear in mind you’ll have an early start with lots of diving the next day.

The structure and schedule I’ve described comes from my own experience exploring the central Maldives region with Soleil 2.

However, in terms of daily routine, you can expect something very similar to this on any Maldivian liveaboard. 

Some liveaboards vary in terms of the length of trips they run – the standard length is 7 nights but some go on for a little longer or shorter. 

Depending on what region of the Maldives your liveaboard is exploring, types and frequencies of experiences may vary – for example there may be more manta cleaning station dives.

But generally speaking, you can broadly apply the routine, schedule and experiences I’ve described above to any Maldives liveaboard. 

Maldivian island at sunset during liveaboard trip.
Whale Shark and Manta Ray made of sand during Maldives liveaboard beach bbq event.
Maldives liveaboard on ocean in distance against pale blue sky with sunset.
  • Thoroughly rinse out your ears in between every dive to avoid aches and pains as the week progresses.

  • Bring some ear drops to! You’ll be diving a lot. Divers who’ve never had painful ears may do on a liveaboard trip. I usually use these ear-drops.

  • Factor in to your budget a decent tip to give the boat/kitchen-staff at the end. These guys work their arses off and can go weeks without a day off. Many are from poorer parts of the world such as Bangladesh and may go years without seeing their family who they send their money back to. There’s usually around 15 staff on the boat so $150 means they each get $10 – this should be a minimal amount.

  • Ideally, take a surface marker buoy and be familiar with how to use it. Chances are you won’t have to as you ascend with your group… but you’ll want to know how just in case!

  • Remember that the more off-the beaten track Maldives regions such as the deep south and far north, are better suited to more experienced divers. If you want to avoid loads of challenging dives, it’s best to go on a trip that tours the central region; which is the most famous part of the Maldives.

  • It’s handy a to have a dry bag to keep your camera, phone, sun-cream, sunglasses etc in when taking them onto the dhoni.

  • Get your scuba-ass scuba-insured!! This is so important. In my opinion, the best dive insurance company to go with are DiveAssure because they offer the highest-payouts and cover hyperbaric chamber treatment. However, you can read about all of the best dive insurance companies here. 

  • Get Nitrox certified. It takes one day. Every liveaboard I’ve been on, everyone dives with Nitrox all week; it’s safer (you’re less likely to get decompression sickness) and lets you stay deeper for longer. If need be, you can get your Nitrox course during the liveaboard trip.

  • Bring a reef hook – this is extremely handy for drift dives in strong currents.

  • Be present. If you take a camera, don’t forget to observe your surroundings with your own eyes every once in a while and not always through a lens. 
Diver blowing bubble ring in the Maldives.
Tsvetelina scuba diver with santa hat - side profile.
Scuba diver in the Maldives against beautiful light patterns from above.
Turtle underwater in the Maldives during liveaboard trip.

Maldives Diving Regions / Routes

Routes travelled by liveaboards in maldives.

In general, the Maldives can be divided into five regions: Central – the most famous, easy-to-dive and frequently explored region, North and South; which are a little more off-the-beaten track and Far North and Deep South; the hardest to reach regions. 

Many Maldives liveaboards operate different itineraries / routes at different times of the year. These differing routes explore one or two of the five Maldivian regions. Virtually all Maldives liveaboards offer routes around the central region but less explore the north and south region and only a few journey to the deep south and far north. 

We’ve briefly summarised the 5 diving regions of the Maldives below – but you can also get a much more detailed description of each, by checking out our main article: Scuba Diving in the Maldives.

#1 Central:

The most frequently visited part of the Maldives; the central region consists of the atolls of Male, Ari, Rasdhoo and Vaavu. The Maldives’ capital city and main international airport (Velana) are both situated on Male atoll, so it’s the easiest part of the island nation to reach. 

There are more known scuba diving sites around Male and Ari atolls than anywhere else in the Maldives- they were the first places to be properly explored by scuba divers. 

Higher levels of tourism does mean more dive boats. However, whilst you’ll see these other dive boats on the water’s surface, you’re not too likely to swim into other groups whilst actually diving. During my trip in the Central Maldives I only saw another groups of divers on two out of twenty dives. 

The central region of the Maldives is the easiest to dive – currents are pretty weak meaning there are less drift dives here compared to other regions. I only experienced two drift dives out of twenty during my liveaboard trip on Soleil 2. 

Around the central region, divers can see all of the iconic species for which the Maldives are known: whale sharks, manta rays, other sharks (including grey reef, whitetip reef, nurse, hammerhead and tiger sharks), stingrays, dolphins, turtles and scores of fish and macro critters as well as some decent coral reef.

#2 South:

The first and perhaps most popular point of call for those seeking a more off the beaten track experience in the Maldives, is the southern atolls. Comprised of the atolls of Laamu, Thaa and Meemu, this area is also well known for drift dives and a varied, exciting underwater landscape.

There is a lot of big pelagic hunting action around the south Maldives with the likes of grey reef sharks, dogtooth tuna and eagle rays seen regularly hunting enormous schools of fish. 

There’s also various manta ray cleaning stations and whale shark sightings as well as several sheltered lagoons where divers can see beautiful coral, turtles and colourful reef creatures such as napoleon wrasse. 

#3 North:

Consisting of the Baa, Raa and Lhaviyani atolls, the north Maldives is less frequented by liveaboards than the southern region, so it’s the ideal place to go if you want to see as few other humans as possible!

Baa atoll is famous for Hanifaru Bay where according to some, between May and October, more manta rays and whale sharks gather than anywhere else in the Maldives – however you can only snorkel Hanifaru Bay as scuba diving there is now prohibited. 

Throughout the north Maldives, there are exciting sites that you can scuba dive, including various manta cleaning stations and exciting drift dives with silver tip sharks, black tip sharks and grey sharks as well as scores of eagle rays and hawksbill turtles across dramatic underwater landscapes of canyons, walls and thilas.

#4 Deep South:

Although large marine animals can be seen throughout all of the Maldives, the deep south region is the best place in the country for sheer diversity of big marine life.

For example, in addition to the silver tip, white tip and grey reef sharks found in other Maldivian regions, within the deep south, scuba divers can also easily encounter many tiger sharks and thresher sharks as well as sometimes see hammerhead sharks, mola mola and black oceanic manta rays. 

Comprised of Addu atoll, Fuvahmulah atoll and Huvadhu atoll, the Maldives deep south region is located very close to the equator. This means that diving conditions here remain excellent throughout the year, with great underwater visibility, calm seas and clear skies overhead.

Also, within the deep south lies the Maldives’ biggest shipwreck: the 134 meter long British loyalty which is covered in a lot of intricate hard and soft corals and home to species like batfish, frogfish and lobsters. 

#5 Far North:

The most far flung and rarely visited region of the entire Maldives, the far north atolls are Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu and Shaviyani. This is the final frontier of scuba discovery within the country, with new dive sites still being discovered there. 

At the most far northern point lies Haa Alifu – this atoll is 300km north of Male and has some spectacular drift dives as well as being a great place to spot leopard sharks. Found here also are several manta cleaning stations and the eighty meter long Madoo shipwreck. 

Haa Dhaalu has a spectacular underwater landscape with many rocky pinnacles and mighty underwater walls and cliffs covered in colourful corals. Around this atolls various dive sites, one can spot white tip reef sharks, nurse sharks and marble rays as well as lots of big pelagic fish. 

Shaviyani is the most rarely visited atoll, with new dive sites still being discovered on a frequent basis. It’s a good area for seeing guitar sharks and rays! 

  • And there you go – that’s a brief summary of all five of the major regions in the Maldives. For a much more detailed description of each, you can check out our main page on: Scuba Diving the Maldives. 
Scuba diver filming coral reef in the Maldives.

Liveaboard diving in the Maldives is possible all year! Manta rays, sharks and other large pelagic animals can be encountered at any given time. The likelihood that they will be seen is more determined by day to day factors such as high/low tide and sunrise-sunset. 

That said, most parts of the Maldives (central, north, far north and south) do experience seasonal fluctuations that affect weather conditions and to some extent affect numbers of pelagic filter feeders (manta rays and whale sharks). These seasonal fluctuations also have some affect on the weather and dive conditions such as visibility and strength of currents. 

January - April - Dry Season:

This is generally regarded as the best time to dive the Maldives. Subsequently it is high season for tourists. 

A general lack of wind during this time results in clear skies, plenty of sun and calm seas. Water visibility is truly phenomenal: especially on the eastern side of the atolls, where divers can enjoy up to 35 meter visibility!

Although seas are calm on the surface, the current is strongest over this period; which results in a lot of fast paced drift diving. There are usually more manta rays and whale sharks around the western fringes of atolls during this period. 

May - November - Wet Season:

Wet season is tourist low season so you may find cheaper prices and deals on liveaboards and resorts.

You can still dive during these months – in fact whilst visibility is not so good due to a higher build up of plankton,  this actually you might see more manta rays and whale sharks, especially around the eastern edges of atolls. 

Overhead the sky tends to be cloudier and there are often short and heavy bursts of rainfall, followed by sun. Currents are usually (but not always) a little weaker during these months. 


This is a transitional month between the dry and wet season and subsequently can be hard to predict. It can be either more like the dry or wet season and vary by the year. It’s usually best to err on the side of caution and assume it will be more similar to a wet season month – minus the plankton build up. 

What and Where are the Maldives?

The Maldives is located in the north-central Indian Ocean, roughly one thousand kilometres southwest from the Indian subcontinent.

This tiny South Asian nation is comprised of a long and narrow chain of some 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks grouped into 26 atolls; separated by broad, deep channels.

In total, only about 200 of these islands are inhabited.

Because the Indian Monsoon current sweeps along this island chain, supplying the waters with rich nutrients, the marine ecosystem supports and attracts many large marine animals including sharks, manta rays, dolphins and big pelagic fish.

In fact, the Maldives is considered to be one of the best places in the world to see manta rays and whale sharks! 

Other iconic species include grey tip, whitetip reef, hammerhead, thresher and tiger sharks as well as stingrays, guitar sharks (technically a ray), tuna, fussiliers, trevally, trutels and dolphins. 

There’s also an abundance of coral with many reef fish, moray eels, octopus and various macro critters such as nudibranch and shrimp. 

Scuba diver behind beautiful coral reef structure in the Maldives.
Stunning ocean sunset in the Maldives.

The underwater landscape of the Maldives is both varied and dramatic. 

Rocky pinnacles locally known as Thilas rise up to scratch the waters surfaces; providing a safe refuge and excellent observation point for sessile marine life such as colourful soft coral and invertebrates.

Between the atolls lie deep and broad channels which contain many swim-throughs, caverns, caves and overhangs. These are covered in colourful hard and soft coral as well as used as a resting spot by larger marine animals like rays and sharks. 

A little removed from the shallow water reefs divers can visit cleaning stations and frequently witness wrasse and cleaner shrimp servicing manta rays, reef sharks and turtles. 

There are a few shipwrecks around the Maldives and even some sheltered scuba diving to be had within lagoons.

Much of Maldives liveaboard diving is also defined by fast paced drift dives with lots of shark action and other big pelagics hunting after huge schools of fish, making it a great option for more experienced divers. 

Maldives Liveaboards - Diving Squad Debriefing

Diving Squad – at ease! We’ve finished reviewing the best Maldives liveaboards as well as going through everything else you need to know including how to book one, what to expect when you’re there and also different regions, seasons and more. 

The information you’ve read today comes from first hand experiences of going on a Maldives liveaboard from various members of Diving Squad (such as Alex on Soleil 2 and Laura on Iruvai) with original videos and photos by us (you can check out our youtube channel for a full list of our movies!).

We’re constantly updating our content, so you can rest assured that what you’ve read today reflects the very latest information regarding Maldives liveaboards in 2023!

Diving the Maldives is an awesome experience and there is no better way to do it than through a liveaboard. Good luck and have an amazing trip!

Two moray eels during a dive in the Maldives.

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Written by:



Scuba fanatic, travel ecstatic and loveable rogue. A rootless divemaster and perpetual adrenaline-junky, Alex holds the esteemed rank of Grand Admiral of the Diving Squad; a title he most nobly awarded to himself. A scuba-junky since 2014, he's dived much of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Red Sea, Ireland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. It's hard to say where he'll pop up next for he never settles; forever a leaf on the wind... or perhaps a lone bubble blasted along on the current.